Johnnyswim, Ivy Levan
1212 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD, 21201
'Our Version Of Events' is the UK’s biggest selling album of 2012 - get the Special Edition version here: http://smarturl.it/ovoeSE | US: 'Our Version Of Events' out now: http://smarturl.it/OurVersionOfEventsUS
UK: Emeli Sandé Live at the Royal Albert Hall DVD out now http://smarturl.it/EmeliRAHDVD
Watch the Clown video here: http://smarturl.it/Clown
You are a 23-year-old from rural northern Scotland. Piano has been your instrument, your songwriting tool, since you were ten; your voice has been remarkable for even longer. A tattoo of artist Frida Kahlo - a typically single-minded, forthright heroine runs the length of your right forearm.
Some of the greatest names in modern pop have sung your thrustingly exciting compositions: Tinie Tempah (Let Go), Professor Green (Kids That Love To Dance), Tinchy Stryder (Let It Rain), Chipmunk (Diamond Rings), Wiley (Never Be Your Woman). You’ve also written for divas big (Susan Boyle), small (Cheryl Cole) and medium-sized (The Saturdays). Your dad (from Zambia) and your mum (from Cumbria), who schooled you in music and encouraged your ambitions, are already proud.
Then there are the richly melodic, classically powerful, retro-futurist soul-pop songs you’ve written for your own debut album. Your love for - and understanding of - Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Lauryn Hill are obvious, loud and proud.
Then there’s the stuff you did in your ‘spare time’: three-quarters of a six-year degree in medicine at Glasgow University. You specialised in Clinical Neuro-Science, “cause I really like all the brain stuff.”
You are Emeli Sandé, and you also really like all the soul stuff, all the heart stuff, and all the emotional stuff. Not many people knew it, but you were behind some of the key pop tracks of recent years. Now you’re about to be the voice in front of the freshest debut of 2012.
Since its release in February, 'Our Version Of Events' has gone on to become the UK's biggest selling debut album of 2012 so far, winning Emeli this year's coveted BRITs Critics' Choice Award, securing her a slot on Coldplay's US tour and at Coca-Cola's Olympic Torch Relay City Celebrations.
JOHNNYSWIM is a Los Angeles based duo composed of Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez. The two began writing and singing together in the spring of 2006 and found that their similar influences of folk, soul, and rock blended together lusciously. Nashville newspaper "the Tennesean" describes JOHNNYSWIM as ,"A mix of Lauryn Hill and John Mayer" ... We LOVE the Tennessean :)
When she was 16-years-old, Ivy Levan hotfooted it out of her Arkansas hometown and moved to Los Angeles to launch the singing career she’d long coveted. “I didn’t have any real plan,” recalls Levan, now 26. “I just knew I needed to get out of there as fast as I could, so two weeks before I was supposed to graduate high school, I took off for L.A. with my mama.” After a few false starts—including a stint at a major label that tried to refashion the fabulously brash singer-songwriter as a Celine Dion-esque balladeer—and a foray into acting and modeling to make ends meet, Levan breathed new fire into her musical pursuits by returning to her Southern heritage. From Benjamin Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan to world renown DJ, Diplo, Ivy's blossoming talent has been recognized by some of the most respected players in the music community. Now, with her debut EP Introducing the Dame on Cherrytree Records, Levan serves up a brand of blues-infused pop that boldly flaunts both her larger-than-life voice and gritty-yet-glossy, in-your-face energy.
With a sound that Levan alternately dubs “swamp hop” and “punk-rock Motown,” Introducing the Dame is a four-track powerhouse built on fiery-sweet melodies, bright but dirty beats, and Levan’s endlessly smoldering vocals. Made in collaboration with her writing partners in the L.A.-based Blood Money Inc. and featuring guest musicians like Tomo Miličević of 30 Seconds to Mars, the EP also reveals Levan’s brilliantly roughneck wit as a pop lyricist. Whether delivering an ode to the almighty dollar (“Money”), a harmony-kissed hangover anthem (“I Don’t Wanna Wake Up”), a heart-on-sleeve serenade (“Hang Forever”), or a growling come-on that name-drops the Son of Sam (“Hot Damn”), Introducing the Dame keeps it high-powered and passionate but never skimps on good, filthy fun.
In shaping the sound of Introducing the Dame, Levan mined a lifetime of wildly disparate musical influences. “There are so many different elements to the music, all these different bands and artists I’ve loved over the years,” she says. “When I was a kid, I adored Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. And then in my preteen and teen years I got into a lot of darker stuff, like black metal and Portishead and Siouxsie and the Banshees.” Counting Stevie Nicks as a key inspiration for her songwriting, Levan first and foremost aims to channel raw emotion into her music. “I just try to write honestly about what’s going on in my life,” she says. “When I started writing as a kid, my songs were about boys and heartache and sadness. Now they’re more likely to be about killing boys, but it just depends on whatever I’m feeling at any given moment.”
Born in Tulsa and raised in Bentonville, Arkansas, Levan grew up on R&B/soul superstars like Ray Charles and Tina Turner. Claiming that she “popped out singing and hasn’t stopped since,” Levan seized on every opportunity to take the stage all throughout her childhood. “I did tons of talent shows, pageants, anything that would allow me to get up there and sing and steal all that attention,” she says. Prompted in part by a school suspension (after a misunderstood incident involving a bottle of cough syrup stashed in her bag), Levan headed for Hollywood just before her seventeenth birthday and soon began landing major modeling gigs. By 18 she’d also scored a recording contract with a major label, but ended up bowing out of the deal quickly after recording a demo. “Everyone seemed to have a different opinion of who I should be,” she says, “so I just walked away.”
Ditching both music and modeling, Levan devoted the next few years to working as a club-promoter. “I’d kind of given up on music at that point,” she says. “My experience in the music business was so awful, I just thought, ‘If that’s what it’s going to be like, I don’t even want to do it anymore.’” Then in early 2011, Ivy met someone who would reignite her fire- Lucas Banker of Blood Money Inc., a producer/songwriter who’s also worked with artists from Selena Gomez to Junkie XL. “Lucas and I just clicked right away and never turned back,” says Levan, who now lives with Banker and their fellow collaborator Patrick Nissley.
In culling material for Introducing the Dame, Levan drew on dozens of tracks that she and her writing partners had developed over the last few years. “We live on top of each other, and we’re always bouncing ideas off each other,” says Levan. “Mostly the songs come from whatever I’m bitching about that day. Like with ‘I Don’t Wanna Wake Up’—that happened because Pat asked me, ‘What do you want to write about today?’, and I was just like, ‘I don’t wanna fucking wake up!’ That’s how it works with us. We’re like three people sharing one brain, and we’re very free with our writing.”
For Levan, that freedom goes a long way in fostering the honesty and authenticity she considers crucial to killer songwriting. “I sing about what I’ve lived, in a way that’s completely real and harsh but also quirky,” she says. “It took a lot of years of being beaten down to get there, but I think I found a certain empowerment in all that.” Above all, she adds, Levan’s journey to shameless self-expression has hinged on reclaiming her deep-South roots. “With my music before, it was like I was putting on a mask, trying to conceal my accent and hide where I was from,” she says. “I was always fighting who I really am, but now I’m embracing it and being 100 percent me. This is the music I was born to sing.”